Listen Up, Hollywood, Geena Davis Is Clear: ‘Thelma & Louise’ Must ‘Never Be Remade’

In the pantheon of great Hollywood films with a major feminist bite, the Geena Davis- and Susan Sarandon-starring “Thelma & Louise” remains the contemporary standard-bearer. The Callie Khouri-penned MGM crime drama about two best friends on the run (who find themselves and their knack for taking bad men down a peg in the process) was a commercial and critical smash when it hit theaters in May 1991.

With a splashy Cannes premiere to launch it, the film made over $45 million at the box office (in 1991 dollars and on a $16.5 million budget) and went on to pick up six Oscar nominations, with a Best Original Screenplay win for first-time writer Khouri.

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And, yes, it was directed by a man. That Ridley Scott was at the helm of this feminist masterpiece still surprises some — or at least those not totally familiar with the filmmaker’s wide oeuvre. Even star Davis still feels the need to remind people of that, as she told IndieWire during a recent chat at the Bentonville Film Festival, which she founded and chairs.

“That’s why I always say a man directed ‘Thelma & Louise,’ I mean, not to promote men,” Davis said with a laugh. “But to say that women can direct anything, men can direct anything. You just have to have your heart in it.”

And Scott really had his heart in it. The filmmaker initially intended to only produce the film after it was brought to him by Mimi Polk Gitlin (who ran his production company at the time), and bought its rights for $500,000, before adding other financiers and producers to the project to get it off the ground.

“Ridley is actually quite a feminist, and almost all women run his company and work with his company. He loves and reveres women,” Davis said. “He wasn’t intending to direct it himself, but when he met with other directors, he was passionately describing what he wanted it to be. He couldn’t find somebody that matched that passion. ‘Well, I should just direct it myself.’ He obviously did a bang-up job. He did an incredible job.”

Even now, Davis is all too happy to talk about Scott’s contributions, which helped bring the story of two down-on-their-luck BFFs who turn it all around (and then, well, back again) on a wild ride through the American West and Midwest.

“Susan and I, we’ll still talk about this: He gave it a scale,” Davis said. “It was a very intimate story. He gave it a scale and vista that really elevated it. It was very, very important, and we’re really grateful.”

THELMA & LOUISE, (aka THELMA AND LOUISE), from left: Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, 1991, ©MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
‘Thelma & Louise’©MGM/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

And what about Hollywood’s ongoing tendency to remake beloved films like “Thelma & Louise”? In recent years, wild rumors have persisted on a potential new take, like one involving no less than Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, chatter that went very viral last year despite not panning out in the slightest. Other creators have tried to put a spin on it in different mediums (like a musical workshopped with Evan Rachel Wood and Amanda Seyfried last year).

Davis is clear: Don’t do it!

“Well, it must never be remade,” she said. “I mean, it’s 30-something years later, and it holds up more than others. I’m not saying this because I’m in it, but it really holds up. And there’s no need to revisit it. What would be the point? In my opinion.”

Davis isn’t opposed to all remakes, though, as she noted an interest in seeing movies that weren’t stone-cold classics in their first iteration — like “Thelma & Louise” — getting a freshening-up on the big screen.

“It would have to be better,” she said. “I’m all in favor of making movies that didn’t really work again and making it work. That would be great. Thank God nobody ever tried to remake ‘Casablanca’ or something. … So far! I’m grateful. I would not be happy about that.”

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